Japan may sell around 1/7th the number of bikes at the peak in the 1980s but the latest stats from the 44th Tokyo Motorcycle Show in late March 2017 revealed a record number of crowds – some 146,495, up 10,000 on last year. 155 exhibitors showed up. In fact it was even larger than last year with 2 floors being utilized vs last year’s show. Clearly the motorcycle product market is expanding – from scooters, enduros, adventure, super sports, naked, e-bikes to trikes. Interestingly Japanese brand Yamaha has turned its success on the track to pricing some of its products (e.g. R1M) at premium European levels, something unheard of 5 years ago. In the reverse Harley-Davidson has had to introduce a 750cc bike made in India to compete with Yamaha’s budget entry cruiser, the Bolt.
The average age of riders in Japan is now 53 and rising. Getting a license is an expensive ($3,000) nightmare and finding a parking space can be an even bigger horror. So there are plenty of ways to turn this sinking ship around. Product has evolved along with huge leaps in technology. Cornering ABS and cornering sensitive traction control to begin with. Even Harley-Davidson has realized it can’t survive on just its legacy. It has introduced the Milwaukee-8 engine which looks to modernize its line-up. Europe’s largest motorcycle maker KTM is bringing out incredible range of products in both its KTM & Husqvarna brands while BMW is entering the sub 400 category to attract younger riders. Yamaha is dominating the Japanese makers for product offering. Honda amazes in its ability to bore with totally uninspiring product. The only things that raise a pulse are concepts which the engineers say won’t see production. Suzuki and Kawasaki remain fringe players with a dash of lunacy amongst a pretty ordinary offering.